When you're managing a digital marketing campaign, it's easy to get caught up in data point metrics: CPCs, CPAs, likes, re-shares. When it comes to digital, almost all of these have a number attached. That's the beauty of digital – it's measurable and you can set benchmark KPIs, and before you know it, you're churning out 8 graphs every month and saying 'there's our performance'.
But so what? Without some context from you industry, a presentation full of graphs, even ones moving in the ever popular up and to the right direction, are pretty meaningless.
Industry Check With Google Trends
It's always hard to lift your head out of tactical, day to day operations but scheduling yourself for a once a month industry analysis check-in will be worth your time. Try a few of these free, easy tools to put your business and campaigns in a relevant context – your knowledge and value will definitely move up and to the right.
One of my favourite free tools is Google Trends which lets you see how popular various terms are, and their performance over time. While Google doesn't share actual search volumes, the tool lets you see what people are searching for – consider both brands and consumer trends. And if your search volume suddenly falls off, you can check if it's also happening in your industry and to your competition.
As a simple example, let's see what's more popular in Canada – puppies or kittens?
Puppies are the clear winners, with some seasonal peaks in January. The letters indicate relevant news headlines that may have impacted search volume.
Or check out the popularity of a key term over time. This chart tracks the popularity of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the last 3 years. You can make some pretty good guesses about what as happening with the team based on the volumes in April and October.
Now, consider the power of something like this with your brand name vs. those of your competitors. Put your brand in as a keyword term, and check the changes over time.
You can also use Google Trends to check on the sentiment around a brand. The chart below from late 2009 through early 2010 for Toyota shows a clear spike in February 2010- but it's not a model launch or a new campaign – it's the start of congressional hearings in the US around massive recalls for gas pedal failures, and the company's alleged failure to respond quickly to known issues.
Check out the change in consumer trends with this look at Black Friday searches by Canadians. If you're a retailer, you can pinpoint when the US style term began to take off.
You can also find insight into new content ideas and consumer trends, which could impact how you think about offline messaging, packaging, and your blog content.
Google Brand Impressions Tool
I also highly recommend using Google's Brand Impressions tool. It provides a quick snapshot of the online presence of your brand, through images, discussions and comments. While it's by no means a comprehensive view, (focusing on Google+ and YouTube stats) using it in conjunction with your internal data can help you pinpoint where your marketing efforts have been succeeding.
You can see the top topics being discussed related to your brand – and if these are part of your marketing plan, or something you need to address, as well as geographies where you're making an impact. And, you can compare your brand to another one. I recommend using the comparison to see if another brand is part of discussions about customer service or loyalty that you'd like to be part of – it can give you some great insights as to where you can start moving your brand discussions.
You can also find great context about online consumer trends from published papers and webinars by comScore, eMarketer and others. And while the free access is typically from older 2013 reports, giving context to your business isn't about knowing the exact % of mobile users in Canada last month – it's about knowing that there's an overall trend to mobile search, and being ahead of that audience.
Finally, a simple calendar is a critical tool in making sure you keep abreast of consumer trends and don't miss the window for action. Depending on your industry, the dates you flag will differ, but I recommend tracking your promotions vs what consumers are thinking about by week of the year. Have a line item for what the business is thinking about and what you are in market with – but don't forget to add a line item that considers what your customers are thinking about. You may find that interest rises or falls at different periods than you anticipated.
With a little time each month, you'll develop a routine of analysis that brings consumer insight to your business. And without that insight, all the data on clicks and impressions falls flat. Take the time to find your "so what?" today.
Christine Bellefontaine is an Account Manager at Search Engine People. She has spent 15 years in traditional and digital marketing and is passionate teaching marketers to look beyond the data points to make digital make sense. She was previously an Industry Analyst at Google Canada.